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Dec 18 2018

An intelligent supply chain for a connected world

Technologies such as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), edge cloud supporting augmented intelligence, advanced security analytics and end-to-end 5G networks will radically speed up the digital transformation of sectors like manufacturing, logistics, transportation and energy. With its ‘Future X for industries’ strategy and architecture, Nokia is well positioned to both participate in and drive this transition. We envision a future where digitalization and automation in the logistics industry lead to higher transparency of the supply chain and more efficient warehouse operations.  

To realize our vision, we embarked on a journey to digitalize our own supply chain, partnering with two global leaders in the logistics arena. 

With a focus on digitalizing our warehouses and achieving logistics transparency over our entire supply chain, our initiative was driven by the demand for a strong Return on Investment (RoI). Consequently, our solutions had to address strong efficiency and innovation KPIs while at the same time maintaining cost leadership. While our journey is far from over, I thought it would be worth sharing some of the insights that we have gained so far.

Warehouse digitalization

We engaged in in-depth talks with warehouse managers, key operational staff and technology specialists from both Nokia and our partners. As a result, we came up with a list of use cases which, when implemented, will surely bolster efficiency and cost optimization:

  • Indoor track & trace of people, machines and goods
  • Real-time optimization of operations using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning
  • Mobile robotics: traffic control and optimization; collision avoidance of mobile robots, collaborative robots (co-bots) and people, combined with remote human control
  • Assisted driving: human drivers assisted by automated warnings, traffic control and picking routes defined by the system
  • Worker 4.0: Augmented Reality (AR) picking; AR/ Virtual reality (VR) supported training; virtual remote auditing

All of these use cases can be addressed via Nokia’s key technologies to make warehouse operations more efficient, cheaper and safer.

With our LTE/5G campus network technology, we can provide reliable and resilient connectivity within warehouses. Our advanced analytics portfolio including IoT applications for industries and Nokia Scene Analytics can help optimize operations using AI and machine learning. Finally, our partner ecosystem provides the devices and applications to address additional use cases thus making Nokia a one-stop-shop for a complete end-to-end solution.

The end game is a highly efficient warehouse where a mix of people and automated robots are co-operating, orchestrated by an intelligent 5G system.

Logistics

End-to-end track & trace

Striving for efficiency, safety and cost leadership, logistics service providers face a big challenge when maintaining the supply chain of their customers: managing operations across several actors that span many transport modes including airfreight, railways, maritime and road.

The main business drivers are visibility and the condition of assets as these move through the supply chain irrespective of who is handling the assets. Big questions to be addressed here are:

  • How do we know where our cargo is?
  • What is its condition and when will it arrive at its destination so that the next steps can be planned accordingly?

Current practices recommend attaching a GPS or RFID-capable tag to the cargo for global visibility and condition monitoring. However, with GPS, the tags become expensive and hence not viable. Using RFID is not a viable proposition either: while the tags themselves are cheap, readers and gateway infrastructure would be required all along the supply chain to enable smooth functioning. So we started looking for a solution which relies on the existing infrastructure and does not make tags expensive, with low power and low cost cellular trackers being key.

We split the end-to-end supply chain into ‘journeys’ and ‘warehouses’. While on the go, a tracker connects to and gets positioned by the public network. The same tracker is used inside the warehouses to connect to a private campus network for data and precise positioning. This helps us tackle both challenges – cheaper tags as our solution would not use GPS technology and an existing network which would not add additional infrastructure costs –, thus making RoI work for end-to-end track & trace.

Outlook

We will keep you posted on lessons learned on our way to a world of smart logistics enabled by an intelligent supply chain.

Our Nokia experts will be speaking at Logistiekdag 2019 in Antwerp on January 30, 2019. Meet us at the show or share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokiaindustries and @nokianetworks using #logistics #analytics #digitaltransformation.

About André Franciss

André Franciss leads the Wireless Industrial Solutions area at Nokia, driving the creation of mobile networks solutions crafted for Industry 4.0 needs across the manufacturing and logistics sectors. He is passionate about connecting technology and business to solve relevant problems.

André is a truly global player who combines strong technical and business expertise. Fluent in five languages and a graduate from a top Brazilian university, he has extensive experience across the automotive, consulting and telecommunications sectors in several continents.

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